These men were fishermen. And they were fishermen because their daddy was a fisherman. And his daddy was too. In a society in which there wasn’t the same upward mobility through education and opportunity as we have today, these nets were not only a tool of the trade. They were the source of family stability and security. Even more, they were emblematic of their identity in the community. When you take all that together, those “nets” aren’t so easy to drop.
But they did. They dropped their nets. They symbolically left their old way of life. They broke with the past—their past vocation, their sense of self, and their identity— and fully embraced the future with Jesus. That’s what a disciple does.
But according to Jesus, not only does a disciple drop the nets. The disciple takes up the cross. Taken from the same gospel of Mark:
“If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
Thing is, you can’t pick up the cross if you’re still holding onto the nets. You can’t follow Jesus is you’re still holding onto your old marks of self-identification and preservation. You can’t embrace the Savior if you’re holding onto yourself.
Once again—there is only one way to follow Jesus. And that is completely.
Disciples recognize the worth and value of the One who calls and see the “nets” in their hands in comparison to Him. They suddenly realize that they have a greater purpose than merely fishing; so they leave and follow Jesus instead. For disciples, following Jesus is both an exit and an entrance; an ending as well as a beginning. They lay down, they pick up, and they follow Him and Him alone.